Disabled Body in an Able-bodied Restaurant

Disabled Body in an Able-bodied Restaurant

Sherri Journeying Through

My husband and I recently tried out a new restaurant in town (new to us) for lunch to celebrate our 38th wedding anniversary. We decided to sit outside as the weather was nice and it wasn’t smoldering hot. That day, anyhow.

We pulled out the cast-iron chairs that had been scooted under the table and sat down. Sort of. The legs scraped against the concrete below and would barely budge for me. My ability to pull the chair in was nil. My husband tried to help but was unable to assist me. I told him it was OK and I was close enough to the table.

I unwrapped my napkin that held my silverware and put it on my lap. I put my silverware back on the criss-cross steel grate tabletop. Eventually, we placed our order and soon thereafter were served our salad. We said grace and I reached over to pick up my fork, having no luck since my fingers could not grasp it without a solid table top to brace my fingers against. After several attempts, my husband offered to help, and I finally conceded. I was hungry, after all.

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We ate our scrumptious lunch and then headed home, with only two slight spills of Alfredo sauce down the front of my shirt from having to sit so far from the table. Now I was able to clearly see, experience, and fully understand another reason why people with Parkinson’s disease don’t like to go out for meals. In addition to the possibility of choking on your food in public, excessively drooling, and not being able to hold your drinking cup or utensils adequately (without bringing attention to yourself or those with you), grated tables and cast-iron chairs that won’t scoot against concrete floors add another obstacle people with Parkinson’s must fight. And that includes not only people with PD, but also other chronic illnesses or disabilities others have to live with daily.

Wouldn’t it be great if, when designing a restaurant, the builders, architects, owners, and designers of establishments would consider those who are disabled as a forethought and not necessarily an afterthought?

I was in another restaurant this past week with my son and his family and needed to use the restroom. I waited as long as I could, as I knew I would have a hard time getting to it with the restaurant being wall-to-wall with tables and chairs, and each of those chairs filled up and pushed out into what little aisles there were. I only tripped once and knocked someone’s ponytail to the side while trying to get by, walking sideways to get there.

I wonder how many people with disabilities have stopped trying to have a nice meal out because the restaurant they would like to patronize doesn’t take into consideration the needs of a disabled or handicapped person? Having a wheelchair sticker on the end of one or two tables is a start, but in most cases, that may not be enough anymore.

As a person with Parkinson’s disease, have you had issues when eating out? What were they and how did you deal with them?


Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

Sherri was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease over 15 years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Sherri is taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.
Sherri was diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s disease over 15 years ago. She can be found working in her garden, going for walks, taking pictures, or reading books to her three favorite grandkids. Sherri is taking life somewhat slower, and perhaps with guarded steps, but she’s not giving in.

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  1. Donna says:

    Carry a cane–even if you don’t need it desperately. You or your husband should request a table near the restroom. The cane alerts people that you have a difficulty. Being near the restroom calms you–you probably won’t even need to go! If you have trouble getting your implements off the table, tell the waiter to bring something for you to put them on. That’s what waiters are for!

  2. Fran Lo says:

    Oh, yes! I was recently in a gorgeous restaurant to get take out food – but the only place to wait was on really high bar stools. I had to stand. Nobody helped me with the door, either, though I was wrangling food and a cane and the door – training waitstaff is necessary when their parents didn’t coach them to watch out for the needs of others. Then there’s the new local restaurant that only has access via stairs – their idea is that they will send out waiters to carry wheelchairs up the steps – like I want to be muscled by strangers, and have to make a special request, to boot.

    • Fran – Thanks so much for your comment. It is hard to understand the ‘obliviousness’ of some while someone is struggling but fortunately it is usually the case that someone graciously steps up to help when they see a need, thank goodness! And a restaurant with only stairs to enter by? That feels discriminatory. Another case of the disabled being an after thought. You’d think that this being the big baby boomer age of disabilities that restaurants and the like would see the need for access and ease more clearly.

  3. rose maude says:

    I just returned from a cruise, and the accommodations made for handicapped people quite good. I use a rollator and also have a scooter. I intended to use a scooter, I ended up using the rollator whole time instead because I felt it would be easier to maneuver. The worst part about the whole thing it’s getting on and off elevators and taking up so much room in the elevator. Everyone was very nice and understanding though. I’ve had PD for over 15 years also (diagnosed at 53), and I never wished so much that I could walk up and down stairs as I did on the cruise. It would make life so much easier. My travel partner, my “significant other” keeps telling me to stand up for myself and push ahead — and make other people for me as a disabled person. most people do this in general, but there are a few …

    One thing that really annoys me fact that I live in a 55 plus apartment complex (having sold my house last year), and they a big heavy doors to the outside and no sliders. I’m going to start complaining about this very shortly. Wish me luck!

  4. Kathleen Maher says:

    I do not have PD but have one totally straight leg due to a fall and unsuccessful surgeries. It is getting to a point that I do not care to go out to eat anymore. I have called favorite restaurants to ask for simple common sense items. Like having a chair with arms or adding an extra support next to the toilet. Imagine trying to raise your body with one working leg. It is very difficult. Wheelchairs are too heavy to ask a friend to lift in and out of the house and car. I use a walker. There are many of us who would love to dine out with friends and family.
    Our world is already small. Any suggestions are welcomed!

  5. Garry Bodenham says:

    Due to the unusually hot weather here in England my ice cream cone began to melt rapidly, triggering a stress induced tremor – only solved by steadying it with my other hand. Result: two very sticky hands and a pool of melted ice. Solution: ask for very small servings and eat quickly !

  6. Monica Cohee says:

    We can relate with your frustrations. My husband along with Parkinson’s is 4 months post-op of having Spinal Fusion from the T10 to S1 (his spine collapsed in March) and is not allowed to bend or twist. He has been home now 8 weeks and will take 6 to 12 months to heal internally.
    My husband loves to eat out and its challenging for him as he has to eat around his medication. We take a walker with us for him. Handicap parking leaves much to be desired.
    I also take him to the women’s restroom handicap stall (which this is another whole topic) as he is a fall risk. I don’t go into the men’s restroom as they are not private because of the urinals.
    Restaurant chairs are not like a captain chair with arms to push up to get up. Tables and chairs are too tight together to get around with a walker which he needs for stability. Some booths are low and hard to get out of. Some chain restaurants aren’t handicap friendly example wooden chairs and tables and don’t offer booths to sit in. Full wooden chairs are hard to move and hurt to sit in. Metal chairs are not comfortable either and are hard to move.
    Food such as salads need to be on a big plate instead of a bowl so he can cut the it up smaller. I ask for a sharp knife and a plate. I cut his food up for him.
    We have found two local restaurants that work for us and serve great food.
    Maybe we need to bring our concerns to the attention of management of the chain restaurants for better accommodations.

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